What is hyperlexia?
Hyperlexia is a syndrome that is characterized by a child's precocious ability to read (far above what would be expected at their age), significant difficulty in understanding and using verbal language (or a profound nonverbal learning disability) and significant problems during social interactions.
What do we know about it's diagnosis?
Although hyperlexia may be the key symptom in describing the learning difference in a child, it is not a stand-alone diagnosis. Rather, it exists on a continuum with other disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders, language disorders and nonverbal learning disabilities. Children with hyperlexia may also exhibit other conditions, such as sensory integration dysfunction, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, motor dyspraxia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and/or seizure disorder.
We have often been asked why we identify children with hyperlexia if they have other diagnoses or conditions. The most important reason is that these children learn primarily through reading, so the therapeutic and educational programs that we devise for them must take their reading skills into account. The reading skills of these children are their strength, and we use this strength to develop their weaker skills.
Children with hyperlexia are delightful, interesting and challenging. They have taught us about learning, language and life. We have found that there are new concerns at each stage of development, and our work with these children is never done. The children we worked with in the early days were a capable group. Most of them did well academically, thanks to a lot of hard work by their parents; however, their social skills remained an issue and needed continued intervention. As we treated many more children over the years, we realized that there is a spectrum of outcomes depending on the severity of the cognitive, language learning and/or social disorder associated with the hyperlexia.
Identification of hyperlexia is most important when children are young, because early intervention increases children's chances for success, and since reading is a powerful tool for learning language and social skills, Once a child begins to understand verbal language, written language call be gradually decreased and used only in certain situations when something new or confusing is introduced. Although symptoms tend to decrease over time, the characteristic learning style remains through adulthood.
What is observed in a child with hyperlexia?Hyperlexia is a syndrome observed in children who have the following characteristics:
Gina Pepin, Ed.D.
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